Stasis In Teaching

An important thing that professors can improve upon is to overcome the perception, or reality, that teaching is static. By that I mean, courses that remain largely unchanged from one semester to another, in their content, assignments, evaluations, pedagogy, and other elements.

Lean principles and practices applied to teaching mean that courses undergo change both during and between semesters – usually a combination of many small changes and a few large, significant changes – all designed to result in improvements to student learning outcomes and their view of quality and value.

At the start of each semester, I inform my students of the specific changes I made to the course based on the prior semester’s student feedback and other improvement that felt were necessary to make. The basic message that I want to get across is that my courses are not evolved. They are never static and never done, but are constantly evolving and improving.

My fear is that courses perceived by administrators, students, and others as unchanging over time are at risk of becoming commodities and transformed into MOOCs or the like. Courses ranging from English literature to chemistry to statistics and fluid mechanics are at risk. Yet, they can easily be transformed from static to dynamic courses via Lean teaching.

It is my hope that professors will see the risk as I do and embrace Lean teaching. The biggest challenge will be to embrace the spirit and meaning of continuous improvement and overcome the deep-rooted desire to create a course and be done with it.

 

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